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Tips For Easy Holiday Entertaining

The fact that they call it the most wonderful time of the year is no accident. The season is filled with family gatherings and parties with old friends and people magically transform into generous individuals, willing to give of their time and means to help out the less fortunate. However, if you are the one who is planning these get togethers for family and friends, the pressure to be the perfect host can take the fun our of the festivities, especially for you. So, to keep those wonderful visions of happy turkey feasts and cocktail parties dancing around in your head, I’ve compiled a list of some tips and techniques that you can follow to make this holiday season one that you will actually remember, because you’ll be right in the middle of it rather than spending your time in the kitchen.

Fake It

The number one way to host a perfect party is to fake it. Fake that you know exactly what you are doing and that you are having a great time. After all, the party just needs to hold up for one night, maybe about three hours. Some of the top party planners in the country suggest that you avoid a pre-party cleaning frenzy. Do not waste your time immaculately cleaning the entire house, just create clean surfaces and add a special ambiance with some decorations, but don’t worry about the dust bunnies hiding beneath the couch. The best place to spend your time cleaning is the bathroom, however, because this is the room that mostly all of your guests will visit. to create an extra special mood, maybe light a candle or plug in a festive scent diffuser and set out a special hand lotion to pamper your guests.

Decorate Simply

Do not spend your money on elaborate flower arrangements, instead buy one kind of flower, in the same color, in bulk and make your own kind of arrangements with items that you already have at your house. If you plan on adding a few candles to the decorations, make sure to cluster the candles into groups. Another great way to add charm and character to your decorations is to give it some varied height. Do not just group together one height in different places around your home, instead mix them up. By doing this, it gives the eye something to follow, and your guests will notice. Also, if you are decorating on a kitchen table, make sure the decorations aren’t too tall. You want to make it comfortable for your guests to communicate while eating, without having to strain their necks to see one another.

Involve Your Guests

Too often when we host parties, we as the host/hostess are in the kitchen preparing the food, or in another room doing something else for the party while the guests are in the main gathering room. If you are in one room, and your guests are in another, something is just not right. One way to involve your guests in the party preparations, especially if it is a smaller size get together, is to include the guests in the meal preparation. For example, you can have your guests make their own dumplings or individual pizzas, decorate cookies, or you can try something totally adventurous and plan a “stone soup” party. This type of party is where each guest brings an ingredient for a soup or a stew without telling other guests what it is beforehand. This is fun  and really helps to make your guests feel like they are really involved and part of the planning of the party.

Don’t Over-Do the Menu

To maintain your sanity as the host, keep the menu simple. A good way to do this is to prepare food ahead of time and maybe mix ready-made food with homemade food. Also, this isn’t the time to try out that new recipe that you’ve been dying to try. It just may flop, so stick to recipes that you know are good and are easy to prepare. Finger foods are fairly easy and make the party more fun for your guests. This also cuts down on dishes used because you will just have to provide napkins for your guests to use.

The Grocery List

There is a unique strategy to follow when shopping for food items for your party. To cut down on last minute shopping stress, buy as much as you can ahead of time, like a couple weeks, so that you don’t have to worry about it a few days before the party. For example, dry goods and shelf-stable stuff like canned items and flour can be bought up to a month in advance. When it comes closer to your party, plan to shop two to three days before for the other items that are perishable. By following this simple technique, your fridge doesn’t fill up as fast and you can spread the cost of it all over a couple of paychecks.

Prep As Much As You Can In Advance

Food, decorations, utensils, plates, cups, etc. can all be prepared in advance, like a day or two, thus cutting down on the last-minute dash to get things completed. For example, if you are cooking a turkey and stuffing, make the stuffing a day in advance, pop it into the refrigerator, then the next day you can just pop it into the oven to cook. If you plan on putting the stuffing inside the bird, you can still prepare it ahead of time, but only put it in the bird right before you cook it. You can also use the day before the party to wash, shop, and trim the veggies so that when it comes time to cook them, all you have to do is throw them in the pot.

Entertaining year-round, and most especially around the holidays can be a stressful situation, but it doesn’t have to be that way. After all, you are inviting people over to have a good time and to catch up, not spend the entire night being the “perfect” hostess. Do all that you can ahead of time to prepare so that come party night, you can do what you wanted to do in the first place, visit with family and friends and enjoy the evening.